The Biblical Symbolism of Woodpeckers

Spotted woodpecker on a tree main

Birds are popular biblical symbols. Woodpeckers are not mentioned specifically. Woodpeckers are not kosher (appropriate food for Jews). Woodpeckers have much biblical symbolism including hard work, courage, beauty, uniqueness, and a sign of design in nature. 

Birds in the Bible  

Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?


Matthew 6:26

Animal symbolism is popular in religious texts. The twelve tribes of Israel, for instance, were often associated with different animals.  Birds are also familiar presences in the Holy Bible.  

Birds are remarkable animals that are beautiful (my mom loves flamingos), the unofficial symbol of New York City (the pigeon), and a whole lot more.  We here at Symbolism Explained are just crazy about birds.  This includes heavenly symbols such as doves.  

What about woodpeckers?  Woody Woodpecker, the zany cartoon bird, was a favorite when I was a child.  They are wonderful birds.  How biblical are they?

Are Woodpeckers Kosher? 

The Bible divides food into “clean” and “unclean” categories.  Jews believe they should only eat foods that are “kosher.”  Muslims also have a related concept known as “halal.”  

Woodpeckers are not a bird that I would associate with food anyway, but it appears that they are not kosher.  A basic reason is connected to what woodpeckers are best known for: their habit of tapping trees to obtain food, including sap and insects.  Insects are not kosher.  

Are Woodpeckers Mentioned In the Bible?

There are many birds mentioned in the Bible from the dove and raven used by Noah to check if it was safe to land to the cock that crowed three times symbolizing Peter’s betrayal of Jesus.

Woodpeckers do not seem to be mentioned specifically in the Bible though “birds” generally are mentioned, including by Jesus.  

The woodpecker was mentioned in Roman mythology, including as associated with the fertilization of the soil.  

Woodpeckers Are Still Biblical Symbols

Woodpeckers still are respected for biblical symbolism.  

Woodpeckers are creatures of God and nature.  This means they are creatures of wonder and worthy of our respect.  Woodpeckers provide many meanings with biblical symbolic value.  

[1] Hard Work and Perseverance

A woodpecker spends a lot of effort to obtain food.  They are hard workers and keep at it until they accomplish their goals.  They are not like the lazy grasshopper, but the productive ant.  

The Bible teaches us that hard work, including the hard work of being a good person through good times and bad, is a blessed trait.  Life can be hard.  But, we will be rewarded in the end. 

[2]  Strength and Courage

Woodpeckers are able to drill into trees with their beaks.  They are small birds with a lot of strength.  The supposedly lowly (David vs. Goliath and Jesus from Nowheresville Nazareth are two well-known examples) that show their strength are biblical mainstays.  

Woodpeckers also have a lot of courage.  They will fight to defend their territory and children.  The Jewish people showed lots of courage versus many enemies.  Christians died instead of giving up their faith.  The Bible demands a lot of courage from the people of God.  

[3]  Beauty

Woodpeckers are beautiful birds that are beloved by bird watchers.  

They show the wonders and beauties of God’s creation.  The well-balanced nature of the world where all the parts work together. We have trees, insects, and woodpeckers in an interconnected web.  Woodpeckers help us be in awe of God and nature.  

Drilling a tree can also help stimulate growth, so woodpeckers can also symbolize renewal.  

[4] Intelligent Design 

Ornithologists (those who study birds) respect the beauty of the science behind such a small bird being able to drill a tree without hurting itself.  I would not suggest you try it.  

Woodpeckers have special cartilage between the head and beak to secure and cushion it against the shocks from constant drumming.  Some see this as a sign of intelligent design based on a higher power.  Others would argue it symbolizes the complexity of nature.  

[5]  Uniqueness  

They are also the only bird with a longer tongue than their beak.   They are unique.

Special creatures are signs of something special in the Bible. Woodpeckers are nonconformists.  The Bible honors many who go their own way, even if others laugh or shun them.  


Humans are not the only animals that communicate with each other.  We know birds talk to each other.  We even try to imitate them with our “bird calls.”  

Woodpeckers are not songbirds.  Nonetheless, their famous “pecking” or “drumming” can be used as a form of communication.   They provide special meanings the birds understand.

The Bible is very concerned with communication, including signs and wonders of nature that God uses to help teach us.  The woodpecker “talks” to us in this way in many respects.  

They might not be directly mentioned in the Bible, but woodpeckers are very biblical.

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